Commuter Van Safety Act

Legislative package, sponsored by Williams and Miller, cracks down on illegal, rogue commuter van operators who pose a danger to commuters, while also ensuring that licensed and insured operators can operate safely across the city.
 
(L-R) Hector Ricketts, Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Leroy Morrison, Council Member Jumaane D. Williams  Photo Credit: Vania Andre, NYC Council

 

 
NEW YORK, NY : On Jan. 18, the New York City Council passed the Commuter Van Safety Act.  The bills, sponsored by  Council Member Jumaane D. Williams , Deputy Leader, and Council Member I. Daneek Miller , Chair of the Committee on Civil Service & Labor,  will crack down on illegal, rogue commuter van operators and ensure that legal, licensed and ensured operators can operate safely across the city.
“Commuter vans are a major source for transportation in my district, and in many other communities across the City,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams. “They fill the gap in transportation starved areas. Unfortunately commuter drivers often get painted with a broad brush, and are accused of infractions that legal drivers are not committing. These bills are about making sure people have the legal opportunity to operate commuter vans, while also stepping up enforcement, and ensuring passenger safety.”
“Since I can remember commuter ‘dollar’ vans have been a part of everyday life for residents of Southeast Queens. These businesses try to provide a service that the MTA is not, and because they were was poorly regulated, it has created an unsafe environment for commuters and drivers alike” said Councilman Miller. “After much advocacy, I have been pleased to see increased enforcement on Parsons Boulevard and Archer Avenue by the 103rd Police Precinct and Taxi and Limousine Commission, and the bills we will be passing today will support those efforts by deterring van drivers from breaking the law and developing ways we can make the industry more efficient. I would like to thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Councilman Jumaane Williams, and my colleagues in the Council for supporting these bills.”
The Commuter Van Safety Act is a package of three bills that includes:

Int. 0570-2014, sponsored by Council Member Williams, 

aligns legitimate commuter van operators with the practices of other livery services by:
  • Eliminating the 6-year the renewal disparity;
  • Eliminating the requirement for petitions to receive operating approval,
  • Eliminating the requirement to maintain records of prearrangement – a practice not in line with Commuter Van operations

Under this bill, Department of Transportation retains the power to revoke operating authority if necessary.   

In addition, all commuter van operators must continue to provide, upon demand by enforcement officials, the following:
  • commuter van license,
  • driver’s commuter van license,
  • authorization to operate a commuter van service
  • vehicle registration and evidence of current liability insurance.
This bill takes effect within 120 days of being signed into law.
Council Member Jumaane D. Williams giving remarks about bill passage at the pre-stated press conference. Photo Credit: Vania Andre, NYC Council
 
Int. 0860-2015,  sponsored by Council Member Miller, requires a study of safety-related issues in the commuter van industry, and limits the number of new commuter van licenses. The bill calls for no more than 735 licenses for commuter vans. Intro. 0860 also calls for a study that would report on the following information:
  • the number of safety related violations, disaggregated by the number that result in crashes, committed by commuter vans;
  • the number of current commuter vans, commuter van drivers, and commuter van bases authorized by the commission;
  • the number of illegal commuter vans operating in New York City to the extent known or estimated, and a discussion of the state of the commuter van industry;
  • a plan on how the commission will ensure that commuter vans do not operate on bus routes, including, but not limited to, what enforcement measures the commission is currently using;
  • the number of commuter vans that were seized by the commission in the prior calendar year;
  • information regarding the twenty most utilized commuter van routes;
  • data on commuter van ridership, including information on  how commuter vans are being utilized to connect to other mass transit to the extent known;
  • a plan for the reduction of commuter vans operating illegally;
  • data on how many licenses for commuter vans, commuter van drivers, and commuter van bases were renewed and how many were rejected in the prior calendar year, as well as any changes in the number of commuter vans affiliated with each licensed base in the prior calendar year;
  • discussion of how commuter van routes are selected; and
  • whether, in the judgment of the commission, there is a need for commuter vans in a number exceeding the number specified in subdivision r of section 19-504.
The report must be submitted to the City Council by July 1, 2017. This bill would go into effect immediately.
Council Member I. Daneek Miller giving remarks about his commuter van bills at the pre-stated press conference. Photo Credit: Vania Andre, NYC Council
Int. 0861A-2015, also  sponsored by Council Member Miller, increases penalties applicable to operators of commuter vans. Under this bill, any person who knowingly operates a commuter van without the proper authorization faces a maximum fine of $3,000 for the first violation, and $4,000 for a second violation , if committed within two years of the first violation.
Commuter vans, also known as “dollar vans,” offer vital, affordable transportation in communities where there are limited transit options. The  Taxi Limousine Commission  recognized the need for commuter vans and developed a decal to differentiate between legal and illegal drivers.
Council Members Williams and Miller encourage commuter to only ride in vans with one of the two following decal:
Rogue, illegal drivers have long posed a safety threat to pedestrians and passengers. In an   incident that took place last year, a 16-year-old girl was fatally struck by a commuter van driver. In  a 2014 incident, a 27-year-old man was run down by a commuter van.
“The Commuter Van Safety Act represents long-needed reform of the Commuter Van industry. As a long-time owner/operator myself, I’ve seen the industry’s highs and lows,” said Leroy Morrison of the Commuter Van Association of New York, and owner of Alexis Van Lines. “The Commuter Van industry has been on the front lines of transporting New Yorkers where they lack other transit options. We’ve stepped in during natural disasters and other crises when needed. This Act will help level the playing field, but also protect commuters against rogue, unlicensed and uninsured, drivers who threaten the safety and well-being of the public. I thank Council Members Williams and Miller for their efforts to help us realize this day.”
“The vision, tenacity and hard work invested by Council Member Williams and his staff on the Commuter Van Reform Bill Intro 5** is applauded by commuter van operators and citizens in communities across the City, where vans operate and are needed,” said Hector Ricketts, president of the Commuter Van Association of New York. ” His efforts will for the first time level the playing field for operators who have consistently responded to the City’s crisis, but were not given a fair shake. From Hector Ricketts and all at the Commuter Van Association of New York we say ‘thank you Council Member Williams, and a  job well done’.”


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